Computers and the Internet

I would give credit to 1945 as being the year modern computers were conceived, based on the work of John von Neumann. And, for a while, everything was cool.

But then, if you accept my 1945 approximation as a fact — which you shouldn’t — then my next wild guess would be to credit 1973 as the year the modern Internet was invented, according to this interesting finding, after some people had the bright idea to connect all the computers together.

After all, that’s all the Internet is: it is a bunch of computers all connected to each other. But how information gets from one computer to another is a whole new ball game, because computers are all so very different from each other.

Some computers are Windows computers. Some are Macs. Some are Linux. Some run iOS or Android. Some are big and powerful. Some are small and sluggish. Some are small and powerful. Some are big and sluggish. Some are new, some are a decade old, and some are even older.

Big and Sluggish Computer

The question is, if all these computers are so different, and computers are decidedly not smart, how do they all know how to talk to each other?

Protocols

As humans, we use language are a primary mode of communication. Depending on where we live, we may use a different language, but its a language nonetheless.

Some people speak English, some French, some Mandarin. If you picked up a random person from Canada who spoke only English and a random person from China who spoke only Mandarin and put them in a room together, how would they talk to each other? Well, they wouldn’t. They would probably try, but they would ultimately get frustrated and give up.

In order for two people to communicate through spoken language, they need to speak the same language. (Yes, I am aware this is a generalization, but cut me some slack.)

Computers are much the same way. If we want two computers to communicate with each other, they need to speak the same language. These languages that computers speak are called protocols.

The purpose of this unit will be to take a look at some of these protocols in a very general way so that we may better understand how the Internet we’ve come to know and love works.

This unit is divided into the following sections:

Key Terms

In this section, we learned about the following key terms:

  • Internet
  • protocol

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